The Sage and His Mystic: Ralph Waldo Emerson and Emanuel Swedenborg
This age is Swedenborg's. I have said the ideas of the age so shine that even the nightmares, as they go, can see them. It is notable that all the Rappers and Mesmerists agree in a subjective religion; all agree that the departing human soul finds such a world as it left; sees and associates and acts according to what it is educated to be: repudiate the Hebrew ideas, and embrace the subjective philosophy of the Saxons, that the soul makes its own world. (JMN XIII 335336)
Emerson's declaration that the middle of the nineteenth century 'belonged' to a Swedish inventor, philosopher, and visionary theologian from the eighteenth century is not an enthusiastic exaggeration, nor is it the flourish of a philosopher's private musings. While unfamiliar to most Americans today, the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg (16881772) had a profound impact on nineteenth-century American culture. In addition to the Spiritualists that Emerson refers to here, many of whom claimed Swedenborg as their most important predecessor,1 the New England thinkers that Emerson associated with continued to steep themselves in Swedenborg's voluminous works. Margaret Fuller found herself drawn to Swedenborg because he allowed for women to be "sufficiently large and noble" within his philosophical framework (12223), and Bronson Alcott used a Swedenborgian perspective of language and revelation as a basis for his educational theories.2 Further afield in more rural areas, various social reformers proceeded to live on experimental utopian farms that were often organized around an odd amalgam of Swedenborg's doctrines and the principles of Charles Fourier,3 while in the domain of aesthetics, several early American art journals maintained ongoing conversations about the pictorial issues that Swedenborg seemed to pose, particularly in regard to his "doctrine of correspondence" and the colors and materials used for composition.4
While Swedenborg's widespread influence on nineteenth century America is a vast project yet to be actualized, the smaller story of Ralph Waldo Emerson's relationship to Swedenborg is no less significant. Emerson offers a fascinating paradigm of howand for what reasonsthe American mind was drawn towards the Swedish philosopher at a certain point in history. A study of Emerson's relationship to Swedenborgian thought is also notable for it was Emerson, more so than any other American intellectual, who diffused Swedenborgian ideas into the general tenor of the time. These ideas became so ingrafted into what one could call an American aesthetica widespread but particular understanding of language, nature, and the creation of artthat they became threaded through the poetry of Walt Whitman and patterned into Herman Melville's Moby Dick, and even persist as themes into the twentieth-century work of Robert Frost and E. E. Cummings.
Ralph Waldo Emerson can be seen as the harbinger that signals this gentle flood of Swedenborgian influence on nineteenth-century American arts. The purpose of this paper is to explore why the ideas of an eighteenth century Swedish mystic could find such a ready reception in Emerson, and to clarify to what extent Emerson's own ideas were affected by Swedenborg's. There is rife and rich disagreement on this matter. Clarence Hotson confidently declared that "Swedenborg had more influence on Ralph Waldo Emerson, directly and indirectly, than any other author" (1929 671), while a more recent study that discusses Emerson's use of language and correspondence completely omits Swedenborg from its conversation (Mason Lowance, The Language of Canaan). Emerson and Swedenborg's combined intellectual weight is as enormous as it is intricately involved; Emerson himself once wrote that Swedenborg could not "be measured by whole colleges of ordinary scholars" and that "his stalwart presence would flutter the gowns of an university" (Essays 666). Emerson's sturdy New England roots further entangle a clear delineation of Swedenborg in his thought, for many of the ideas which Emerson most keenly read in Swedenborg, particularly those of correspondence in nature, had already become part of the New England intellectual tradition at an earlier time and under slightly different forms. Swedenborg's layout of a micro and macro-cosmic universe may have helped Emerson to declare "the world globes itself in a drop of dew" (Essays 289), but seventy years earlier a Puritan thinker like Jonathan Edwards had gone to nature for quite similar purposes, looking for God's truth presented there in material forms, seeking his sermons in the brooks and wondering at the dreams a stone might have.
But if the generation of Edwards had conditioned Emerson's New England mind for a ready affinity with that of an eighteenth century Swede, how does one begin to account for Emerson's strong repudiations, even disparagements of Swedenborg? The age may have belonged to Swedenborg but Emerson also announced in Representative Men that the mystic was retrospective and passé: "I think, sometimes, he will not be read longer" (Essays 688). Emerson's prediction did partially come true; by mid-century, many of the Swedenborgian Fourierist phalanxes had folded or were soon to disintegrate. The European Romanticism which heavily drank from Swedenborg's Heaven and Hell had given way to the practical sensibilities of high Victorianism. And yet in America, over the proceeding decades there was to be an explosion of Spiritualist movements influenced by Swedenborg, and in the visual arts, the latter half of the nineteenth century is notable for the epic panoramas by Frederick Church and George Innes that are heavily imbued with Swedenborgian correspondence. This is hardly the prospective picture of influence offered by Representative Men: "An ardent and contemplative young man, at eighteen or twenty years, might read once these books of Swedenborg, these mysteries of love and conscience, and then throw them aside forever" (Essays 682).
Remarks like this one are curious, as they both trivialize the significance of Emanuel Swedenborg to Emerson and sometimes seem to be based on misunderstandings of Swedenborg's thought (especially when it comes to his correspondence). Why this misrepresentation of a representative man occurs, whether it be conscious or not, whether due to poor English translations of Swedenborg or to other factors, has yet to be fully reckoned. While it goes too far, as Clarence Hotson has done, to depreciate Emerson as an "inferior" reader of Swedenborg who facilely derived false conclusions of his works, there does ultimately remain more similarity and proximity of thought between the two thinkers than Emerson's criticisms would suggest. Swedenborg's attempt to unify a realm of spirit with the expanding world of material science, his elastic notion of a correspondence between the natural and the spiritual, and his emphasis on the importance of utility and use are three issues that weave themselves, again and again, through the fabric of Emerson's texts. Emerson certainly frames these concerns in his own unique and original language; and true, as Perry Miller has made evident, they reflect ideas which were quintessential to the original Puritan spirit.5 Nonetheless, Swedenborg forms an essential component of Emerson's aesthetic and was as instrumental for his development as Coleridge or Plato. Indeed, one wonders if Emerson would have been able to arrive at a certain approach to natureone that lies so closely to Jonathan Edwards' ownwithout the visionary Swede functioning as a sort of ideological bridge between the quickly changing face of the nineteenth century and New England's Puritan past.
Section 2 top
Before discussing the relationship of ideas between Emerson and Swedenborg, it is useful to consider the obvious question that Emerson's New England heritage poses. If such continuity existed between his thought and that of someone like Jonathan Edwards, why couldn't Emerson rely more heavily on the intellectual framework of his forefathers? Why must he and his circle "resort," to use Perry Miller's term for this turning, to the other-worldly texts of Swedenborg, Plotinus, and Oriental philosophy? As Miller puts it, this "is truly strange that the generation of Emerson and Alcott should have had to go to Emanuel Swedenborg for a doctrine of 'correspondence,' since something remarkable like it had been embedded in their own tradition for two hundred years" (1984 213).
Miller's "remarkable" something is the Puritan approach to nature, an attitude which is greatly shaped by the Christian tradition of typology. Typological methods of reading scripture had existed for centuries, long before the Mayflower wound its way to Plymouth Rock, but the Puritans tended to expand the mode of interpretation to include their own particular time and place in history. Old Testament crises endured by the Israelites not only foreshadowed Christ's ordeals but came to prefigure the happenings and events within New England, a New Canaan whose cities on hills could literally become the New Jerusalem of Revelation. Scripture was to be validated by the very ground that the Puritans walked upon, and the book of naturethat vast unknown wilderness before themcould reflect the manifold truths of God's Word. Typology permeated not only the religious rhetoric of sermons and essays, as Sacvan Bercovitch has demonstrated, but forms the structural backbone for a number of Puritan secular writings, including politics, poetry and personal narratives (169).
Jonathan Edwards' ambitious Images of Divine Things (1728) exemplifies what nature could become for the Puritan mind. Written mostly on used scrap paper in Edwards' notebooks, the work sets out to catalogue and define God's creation according to typological principles. As entry number 70 confidently asserts, "Wherever we are and whatever we are about, we may see divine things excellently represented and held forth, and it will abundantly tend to confirm the Scriptures, for there is an excellent agreement between these things and the Holy Scriptures" (74). Over two hundred numbered entries elaborate on this connecting correspondence between "things" and Scripture: the rising and falling of the sun each day typifies Christ's birth, death, and re-ascension into heaven (66); ravens that love to feed on carrion foretell the devils in hell that delight in tearing apart wicked souls (70); even the military triumphs of Rome are a "type" which symbolizes the penultimate victory of the Lord (82). Almost one hundred years before Emerson began writing about the fundamental presence of spiritual laws and moral lessons contained within nature, Edwards here states:
Tis a great argument with me that God, in the creation and disposal of the world, and the state and course of things in it, had great respect to a showing forth and resembling spiritual things . . . The material world, and all things pertaining to it, is by the Creator wholly subordinated to the spiritual and moral world. (61)
According to Edwards, nature's subordination to the spiritual and moral thus explains why pagan authors like Ovid could strike upon Christian truths which are integral to the Bible. Nature is a text within which God speaks, if one knows how to listen: "The works of God are but a kind of voice or language of God to instruct intelligent beings in things pertaining to himself," Edwards writes, "And why should we not think that he would teach and instruct by his works in this way as well as others . . . ?" (67).
Puritan theology could not answer this question as easily as Edwards assumes. If the handiwork of Nature is the very voice of God, what then happens to the need for Biblical scripture? Why is the written Word at all necessary when things of the material world can reveal the same deeper spiritual truths? Nature-as-revelation posed an unvoiced paradox that haunted the Puritans, threatening their essential tenets of grace and salvation, and Edwards is no exception despite his rhetoric. Indeed, in his autobiographical Personal Narrative which deals with the growth of Edwards' religious sense, a striking amount of text describes deeply spiritual experiences which are induced by a complete immersion in nature. Considerably less space is given to Edwards' reading of Scripture or his times spent in the congregation at church, two things one would expect from a devout and socially responsible Puritan. The movement towards nature betrays a shift in New England, one that transfers the religious experience from the narrow pews of the church to the expansive trees of the forest, to those places like Walden pond where Henry Thoreau is later able, in a sense, to be "converted." The more ecstatic moments of Edwards' narrative are just shades away from the writings of Emerson and Thoreau:
And when the discourse was ended, I walked abroad alone, in a solitary place in my father's pasture, for contemplation. And as I was walking there, and looked up on the sky and clouds; there came into my mind, a sweet sense of the glorious majesty and grace of God, that I know not how to express . . . The appearance of everything was altered: there seemed to be, as it were, a calm, sweet cast, or appearance of divine glory, in almost everything. God's excellency, his wisdom, his purity and love, seemed to appear in everything; in the sun, moon and stars; in the clouds, and blue sky; in the grass, flowers, trees; in the water, and all nature; which used to greatly fix my mind. (285)
Here, Edwards' inner conviction of God's universality in naturethe sense in the heart he knew not how to expressis the thrust towards pantheism and mysticism that Perry Miller has traced in Edwards, a heretical tendency which Edwards carefully kept in check "because he himself was so apt to become a mystic and a pantheist" (1984 195). One wonders what may have happened had Edwards' not died at fifty-two, had he lived to follow through with an unfinished project like the History of the Work of Redemption while continuing to place himself in solitary communion with nature.6 Had Edwards lived, would he have been pushed towards a position like Emanuel Swedenborg's? Could he have formed a more viable sort of American mysticism for Ralph Waldo Emerson? Long after Edwards' death, Emerson pondered if going alone into nature was the prerequisite for an experience of mystical enlightenment"Such revelations as were made to George Fox or Emanuel Swedenborg are only made in the woods or in the closet. They are no common madmen" (JMN IV 92). At any rate, the critic Sherman Paul speculates that
if [Emerson] had available Edwards' treatise on Images or Shadows of Divine Things, he might not have had to turn from New England to Continental mystics like Swedenborg or Boehme. Even though his Calvinism was too severe for Emerson, Edwards was representative of the correspondential way of thinking Emerson appreciated in his forebears. (3)
Paul's conjecture indirectly accounts for one reason why it is difficult to trace a direct historical thread between Edwards and Emerson: the more pantheistic and mystical strains of Edwards were simply not in print for Emerson to read (which further suggests how Edwards may have been aware of the dangerously heretical strands in his writing). Scholars have struggled for various ways around the paucity of Emerson's references to Edwards; part of Miller's thesis in his "Edwards to Emerson" essay is that "certain basic continuities persist in a culturein this case taking New England as the test tubewhich underlie the successive articulation of 'ideas'" (1984 185). Certainly, cultural traits subsist in a people over time; however, both Edwards and Emerson arguably constitute more of an anomaly for their respective periods rather than embodying "certain basic continuities." More recently, Lowance Mason has tried to circumvent the problem with some rather slippery wording:
Edwards posited new conclusions about the divine source and its manifestations to the elect perception. Emerson and Thoreau owe much to this transformation, though many of their own beliefs came from Edwards through Scotland and Germany where Enlightenment idealism was an avenue for Emerson's understanding of the English poets Coleridge and Wordsworth. (emphasis added, 8)
To say Emerson and Thoreau derived ideas from Edwards through European philosophy suggests an incorrect flow of literary influence, as if Edwards' thought first impacted Scotland and Germany and then re-circulated back into America when Thoreau and Emerson read Edwards in digested, second-hand forms. This was patently not so; as Donald Weber has shown, it was only until Perry Miller's post-WWII scholarship that Edwards was fully incorporated into a national literary canon whose lineage descended down to Thoreau and Emerson.7
Even if Emerson had read an Edwards text like Images of Divine Things, there surely was much within it that Emerson would have found problematic (just as, vice versa, a good Puritan like Edwards would have been appalled to hear his Godly ideas theorized as a sort of ideological parent to Emerson's mystical pantheism). If Emanuel Swedenborg's general adherence to Christianity came to annoy Emerson, his antipathy for Edwards' staunch Calvinism was even more vehement. One of Emerson's complaints about Swedenborg is that "his theological bias fatally narrowed his interpretation of nature," and that this casts his correspondence into a fixed rigidity (Essays 676). In contrast, Edwards' shadows and images are tremendously more Christ-oriented than any of Swedenborg's correspondences as they remain within the expected bounds of typology, continually referencing aspects of nature to the life of Christ, in particular to his passion and resurrection. Swedenborg's system allows for more flexibility than Edwards' signs (and is also more organic than Emerson will admit), and one can just as easily postulate that had Emerson read Images of Divine Things he may have been pushed in just the opposite direction: to draw more resolutely from Swedenborg's freer correspondences while further distancing his own strict Puritan past.
Edwards, despite whatever mystical proclivities he may have held in nature, was fundamentally a child of the Ramusian logic that informed so much of Puritan thought. Petrus Ramus' original rebuttal of Aristotle in the sixteenth century may have initially pushed his successors towards an assertion of inner reason as the source of truth, but his outward looking scholastic method of technologia also insisted on nominalism, that truth could only be known through the data of the senses. The tension between these two positionsone ultimately rooted in Plato, the other hearkening back to Aristotlewas an unspoken crisis for Puritan philosophy and theology to resolve, and evermore so as advances in material science complicated the relationship between nature and scripture. The Puritans wanted empirical facts to be the basis of their epistemology but simultaneously required an inner psychological dimension where the other-worldly dramas of grace and revelation could be enacted. This duality had, according to Perry Miller, the "perverse tendency to make revelation natural and redemption rational"(1982 187). Slowly but surely over time, Ramus' phantasms, the impressions of sense-objects in the mind that formed all thought, came to crack open the heavy bulwark of Puritan dogma. When John Locke began to be read by New England Puritans, some of these contradictory fissures widened further. Locke's philosophy soon rendered the confident theism behind New England's technologia and euphraxia untenable, or at least more difficult to hold. Jonathan Edwards' "sense of the heart" can be read as a partial parry to Locke, as it creates an interior space for super-natural grace; and yet, Edwards remains thoroughly steeped in a Lockean perspective of the universe. To speculate one final time on the matter, if indeed Emerson had read Images of Divine Things, he may have been further troubled by Edward's recurring metaphor of mechanical wheels for the orderly laws that lay beneath the surface of nature, perfectly turning within God's machine of Providence:
That machines for the measuring of time are by wheels, and wheels within wheels, some lesser, some greater; some of quicker, others of slower revolution; some moving one way, others another; some wheels dependent on others and all connected together, all adjusted one to another and all conspiring to bring about the same effect, lively represents the course of things in time from day to day, from year to year, and from age to age, as ordered and governed by divine providence. (125)
This classic depiction of clockwork Deism was anathema to Emerson's organic core. For Emerson, such a linear projection onto the universe could atrophy towards a dangerous sort of skepticism; as Sherman Paul writes, "the more one glorified the perfect machinery of the universe, the more difficult it became to avoid its relentless determinism by a faith in one's own agency or the promise of miracles" (19). The Sage of Concord's turning away from New England ground towards foreign texts like Swedenborg's can almost be expected, particularly when one considers the barren Unitarianism that Emerson was raised upon, an altogether different soil from the fervid climate of Edwards' own times. In fact, what first draws the young Emerson to the Swedish mystic is not his doctrine of correspondences at all (which does play a later vital role) but Swedenborg's emphatic rejection of the eighteenth century materialist psychology and his counter affirmation of an inner, intuitive voice. When Emerson first heard Swedenborg's ideas being articulated by Samson Reed, a scholar who gave the 1821 Harvard commencement address to a crowd which included the eighteen year old Emerson, it was as if "an oracle" had spoken whose lips showered "words of fire."8 That presumably hot day of graduation in August marks an epochal moment in Emerson's developmenta moment of aha! experience that falls into the same category of importance as his better-known insight at the Jardin d' Plantes in 1833. Years, even decades later, Emerson would return to Reed's small oratory address in the circling pages of his journals and use it as a touchstone for his ideas.9
But Samson Reed, more so than Emanuel Swedenborg, has faded from all but the scholar's memory. The disappearance of this thinker, who Emerson once classified as belonging to the same intellectual category as Shakespeare and Plato, whose work he eagerly propounded to Carlyle, is unfortunate, for Samson Reed is absolutely essential for properly understanding Emerson's relationship to Swedenborg's ideas.10 As Sylvia Shaw also compellingly argues, Reed's contributions to nineteenth century American aesthetics are worthy of consideration in their own right. In addition to reading the "Oration on Genius" as one of the earliest American Romantic manifestos, Shaw's thesis finds Reed's later Growth of the Mind (1826) to exposit some of the first poetic theories of free verse and traces a thread from Reed and Emerson to the work of Walt Whitman.11 The ground-breaking rhythms of something like Leaves of Grass (1855) does certainly fulfill what Reed had called for much earlier:
It may be peculiar, and is said with deference to the opinion of others, but to my ear, rhymes add nothing to poetry, but rather detract from its beauty . . . In the natural world we find nothing which answers to them, or feels like thembut a happy assemblage of living objects springing up, not in straight lines and at a fixed distance, but in God's own order, which by its apparent want of design, conveys the impression of perfect innocence and humility . . . The poet should be free and unshackled as the eagle; whose wings, as he soars in the air, seem merely to serve the office of a helm, while he moves on simply by the agency of the will. (48-49)
Samson Reed, however, has been exaggerated as Emerson's sole early source for Swedenborgian ideas. Reed was but one of several lenses through which Emerson brought his mystic into focus. Before Emerson was born, the effect of Emanuel Swedenborg was widely felt by the Romantic milieu of Europe, an environment that inevitably cast shadows across the Atlantic during Emerson's formative years. The 1790s had brought William Blake's seminal Songs of Innocence and Experience (1789 and 1794), as well as his satirical Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1790-93), works where Blake deeply wrestles with Swedenborg and that form, in many ways, foundational texts for Romanticism.12 Within the same decade, the artist John Flaxman had begun to sculpt innovative depictions of the afterlife derived from Swedenborg's Heaven and Hell, the same work that would later inform portions of Goethe's masterpiece Faust.13 The name Swedenborg had expanded beyond the hermetic circles of science and theology to become a flavor for conversations across Europe, worthy of discussion within London's coffeehouses or at the continental salons of Paris and Jena. In America, where Swedenborg remained unknown among literati until later, Samson Reed undeniably forms a crucial initial link to Swedenborg for Ralph Waldo Emerson, although Emerson soon came across strands of Swedenborgian thought through more obtuse European avenues, sources that were independent of Reed and Emerson's own readings of Swedenborg. In particular, Emerson avidly read ideas about correspondence, nature, and utility in two French texts that grow out of this earlier Romantic period. The importance of the first, Le Vrai Messie by the Swedenborgian Gustave Oegger (1829), translated into English by Elizabeth Peabody, has been well documented by Kenneth Cameron and other scholars as Emerson copied large portions of the work into his journal.14 The second text, Madame Germaine De Staël's De L'Allemagne (1813), has been much less discussed. According to Anders Hallengren, this is a rather large oversight, for De L'Allemagne was "one of the most important early sources on continental philosophy and science" for Emerson (1994 52). In addition to Oegger and De Staël, I would further argue for Friedrich Wilhelm Schelling as another Swedenborgian diffusion into Emerson's thought stream. Emerson was probably unaware of the importance of Swedenborg to Schelling but nonetheless seems to have intuitively grasped an implicit connection between the two, as journal entries occasionally bracket them together.15 Samuel Taylor Coleridge, another Emerson favorite, also owed an intellectual debt to Swedenborg, and is perhaps the first notable English man of letters who gave Swedenborg serious attention.16 Much work remains to be done with Swedenborg in regard to both Schelling and Coleridge and the respective bridges they form to Emerson in America.
Mme De Staël was probably the first European writer to specifically contextualize Swedenborg for Emerson. He may have read De Staël as early as 1822perhaps within months of being galvanized by Reed's "Oration on Genius"borrowing the French originals of De L'Allemagne from the Boston library. She is first mentioned by Emerson in an 1823 letter to his Aunt Mary Moody Emerson. Aunt Mary valued the book greatly and wanted her own copy to be willed to Waldo upon her death.17 Ironically, though Mary Emerson appears to have deprecated Reed and SwedenborgReed was too full of trite "Swedishness," she concluded after reading his Growth of the Mindit was in De Staël, and not Reed or Swedenborg, that Emerson initially encounters the important idea that the scientific facts of nature could translate into moral and ethical laws for the soul.
Shortly before Emerson set sail for Charleston and St. Augustine in 1827, he read De Staël's chapter on "Religion and Enthusiasm" which was part of the book's larger project of presenting the development of German culture and science. The chapter focused on Emanuel Swedenborg as a "metaphysical scientist" and the supernatural power of his will as a visionary.18 Once Emerson was ensconced in Florida, even though he had not brought his two-volume De Staël with him, he couldn't help but associate her, Swedenborg, and Samson Reed together under a rubric of "Transcendentalism" while contemplating "the peculiarities of the present age." The brief note in his journal forms the earliest reference to Emanuel Swedenborg in Emerson's corpus:
Peculiarities of the Present Age . . .4. Transcendentalism. Metaphysics and ethics looks inwardsand France produces Mad. de Stael; England, Wordsworth; America, Sampson Reed; as well as Germany, Swedenborg. (JMN III 70)
Though Emerson had yet to actually read Swedenborg, he already configures him as a metaphysical source that "looks inwards," a direction which could repudiate the stranglehold of the senses, the rule of matter over mind that had reigned since Locke. As Emerson listed his New England peer with these other great minds, he was certainly thinking of Reed's "Oration on Genius," perhaps in particular the speech's direct rejection of Locke and its counter-call for a spiritualized science as a source of a new truth:
Science will be full of life, as nature is full of God. She will wring from her locks the dew which was gathered in the wilderness. By science, I mean natural science. The science of the human mind must change with its subject. Locke's mind will not always be the standard of metaphysics. Had we a description of it in its present state, it would make a very different book from "Locke on the Human Understanding." (Emerson the Essayist II, 11)
Emerson's pithy journal list is also significant because it is the first occasion for Emerson to use the word "transcendentalism," long before the term would be derogatorily stuck to his New England circle. If Emerson only knew the irony that someday he, too, would fall under this heading, and share kinship with the poetry of Wordsworth, the scientific eye of De Staël, the mysticism of Swedenborg. While Emerson blithely takes in De Staël's mis-presentation of Swedenborg as a German, he does significantly designate the Swede as being representative in some way, a figure who is "produced" by a culture as part of something vague and transnational, a "transcendentalism." The emblematic value of Swedenborg would not be clarified until twenty years later with the lectures for Representative Men, but here, his incipient role as a kind of archetypal figure emerges from the horizon of Emerson's curiosity.
When Emerson returned from Florida his interest in Swedenborg greatly increased. Journal references to Swedenborg become suddenly abundant. By September of the same year, Emerson had begun to regularly read the New Jerusalem Messenger, a periodical put forth by a society of the Boston New Church that featured extracts from Swedenborg's theological works and various critical essays by New Churchmen like Samson Reed.19 Within a year, he seems to have acquired several Swedenborg texts himself, the first perhaps being On the Intercourse Between the Soul and the Body (the 1828 publication) as it most clearly articulates the "doctrine of the affections clothed," a peculiarly Swedenborgian parlance which seems to be the first of its kind for Emerson to remark upon.20 Before 1837, three other English translations of Swedenborg certainly found their way into the Emerson library: The Apocalypse Revealed (published in 1836), A Treatise Concerning Heaven and Its Wonders, and also Concerning Hell (1823), and The Doctrine of the New Jerusalem Concerning the Lord (1833).21
Emerson's lenses onto his representative mystic were thus multifarious and simultaneous. He read articles in the New Jerusalem Messenger while contemplating his own encounter with Apocalypse Revealed; he drew again upon the work of Samson Reed and made connections from him to De Staël and Gustave Oegger; he engaged in conversations with Reed and his friends that left Emerson both exhilarated by their insights and frustrated by their dogmatism. Thanks to Reed and De Staël, Emerson was initially attracted to Swedenborg for the link he suggested between metaphysics and science and the counterpoint this situated against Locke, but the sage of Concord quickly discovered a wealth of other material within the copious domain of the Swede. Emerson writes in his journal between drafts of Nature that "Swedenborg will presently become popular. He needs only to be regarded as a poet instead of a sectarian & low religious dogmatist to be read & admired for his verities" (JMN V 177).
Poetry, veritiesthese are words of power for Emerson, accorded as they are to his Beauty and Truth, the ends of his poet and philosopher.22 At this point, in the years leading up to the publication of Nature and the first series of essays, the most important poetic verity which Emerson reads within Emanuel Swedenborg, can perhaps be summed up by the single word correspondence. It was correspondence that tied the spiritual to the natural and allowed all the manifold aspects of the universe to be "a dial-plate of the invisible," as Emerson puts it in Nature (quoting directly from the New Jerusalem Messenger); it was correspondence as an active, organic hermeneutic that helped prompt Emerson to reflect more deeply on the symbolic and the material values of language itself.
However, both Emerson and Swedenborg's use of correspondence was not particularly unique or new. In his penetrating and thorough study The Code of Concord (1994), Anders Hallengren explores a host of thinkers that Emerson deeply appreciated, from Plato to Joseph Butler to Francis Bacon, and shows how their analogous modes of thinking also tended to consider nature as a large book of spiritual symbols. Before Swedenborg began expounding on the term, Hallengren points out that Butler had already wrote that there is "a much more exact correspondence between the natural and the moral world, than we are apt to take notice of" (100101), and even earlier, Frances Bacon had written much about correspondence along the same lines that Swedenborg later would. The more Emerson reads his Swedenborg, the greater transparency he finds of the ideas contained within, and he increasingly marvels at the irradiation of similar thought over the span of time: ". . . the eminent men of each church, Socrates, A Kempis, Fenelon, Butler, Penn, Swedenborg, Channing think & say the same thing" (JMN IV 84); "I look upon every sect as a Claude Lorraine glass through which I see the same sun & the same world & in the same relative places as through my own eyes . . . Swedenborg's love of self & love of the Lord; William Penn's World & Spirit; the Court of Honor's Gentleman & Knave. The dualism is ever present through [sic?] variously denominated" (JMN IV 348). Rather than becoming disenchanted or jaded by this apparent lack of originality, Emerson transformed the similarity of thought into a criterion that qualifies his 1850 line-up of representative men. The more translucent an idea, the greater the capability for the universal spirit of humanity to shine through:
This is the key to the power of the greatest mentheir spirit diffuses itself. A new quality of mind travels by night and by day, in concentric circles from its origin, and publishes itself by unknown methods; the union of all minds appears intimate; what gets admission to one, cannot be kept out of any other; the smallest acquisition of truth or of energy, in any quarter, is so much good to the commonwealth of souls. (Essays 631)
Emerson's concern with correspondence was, in a sense, timeless. Attempts to link the Real with the Ideal, to use Coleridgean terms, are perennial. The desire to seek meaning through the changing phenomena of the world and yet point to an absolute state beyond: this is the fundamental philosophic impulse, the connecting function that correspondence performs for both Swedenborg and Emerson. As Hallengren has eloquently put it elsewhere,
To perceive what is happening in what seems to be happening, to glimpse what is hiding itself within the visible, is something humanity has been striving for time immemorial . . . It is indicated in the imagery of paleolithic art and the symbolic language of Bronze Age rock carvings, in the ancient world of petroglyphs as well as in hieroglyphs, and in a sense it recurs nowadays in the strictest empirical-deductive science, where we, in the macrocosm and microcosm, are trying to decode the language of life and read the enigmatic text of the universeto outwit, bridle and curb the secret powers of nature to the benefit of man. (Deciphering Reality 8)
Despite the centuries of writings about correspondence, Emerson concluded early on that no generation could properly form a relationship between man and God, the natural and the spiritual, by relying on the discoveries of decades past; each had to independently face nature anew and uncover their own modes and meaning therein. Thus came Emerson's strong injunction that "each age, it is found, must write its own books" (Essays 56) and his closing emphasis in Nature that every man should build their own world. "Once leave your own knowledge of God," Emerson warned young Cambridge graduates, ". . . and take secondary knowledge, as St. Paul's, or George Fox's, or Swedenborg's, and you get wide from God with every year this secondary form lasts . . ." (Essays 88).
There is yet something particular within Swedenborg's presentation of correspondence that draws Emerson repeatedly back. Many other figures that populate Emerson's groupings who deal with correspondence in some waysuch as Butler or Fox or De Staëlhave the tendency to fade from Emerson's writings. Swedenborg remained a life-long interest. One aspect that distinguishes Swedenborg within both the Idealist and visionary traditions is the relevance he places on the natural and physical planes. Emerson was keenly aware of the dangers in going too far down an Idealist path and overvaluing the transcendent above the real. To do so could degrade the beautiful power of nature in favor of an unknowable eternity that was alien, and ultimately incomprehensible for humans. Manicheus and Plotinus were guilty of this fault, according to Emerson, as were most "ignorant sects" who cried "contemn the unsubstantial shadows of the world; they are vanities, dreams, shadows, unrealities . . ." (Essays 38). Emanuel Swedenborg's continual insistence on the fundamental need for nature as the foundation for everything spiritual was refreshing within neo-Platonic thought. In Emerson's and Swedenborg's cosmos, the spiritual and the natural are interdependent, forever intertwined, and cannot exist without each other. A recurring trope in Swedenborg's spiritual writings is that they are based "on things seen and heard," that his texts are composed of empirical evidence gathered from the heights of heaven and the depths of hell.23 If a trajectory of Swedenborg's style is traced through his theological works, the number of narrative inter-chapter sequences detailing what was actually "seen and heard"what Swedenborg often terms "memorable relations"can be seen to grow, moving the vestment of ideas away from the boundaries of traditional exegesis and towards the facts of personal experience. In many regards, Swedenborg's scrupulous skills as a scientist, anatomist, and mineralogist had not been relinquished with his paradigm shift towards theology in the 1740s, but had merely transferred themselves into the vast laboratories of heaven and hell for a meticulous exploration of the spirit. In a memorable relation from Intercourse between the Soul and the Body, which Emerson knew well, Swedenborg encounters a curious interrogator who wanted to know more about why he had moved from the natural sciences into theology. After discussing some correspondential symbols in the New Testament, the questioner has a moment of insight into Swedenborg's position:
. . . therefore I do not wonder that [the Lord] has also called and chosen you, since, as you have said, you were from early youth a fisherman in a spiritual sense, that is, an investigator of natural truths; that you are now an investigator of spiritual truths, is because these are founded on the former. (352)
Spiritual truths are founded on natural truths: this conviction radiates through both Samson Reed and Emerson. For Swedenborg, the function of correspondence as the bind between the natural and the spiritual was not an arbitrary or abstract system of connecting symbols; as man was made in the shape of the eternal Divine"Let Us make man in our image" as God spoke in the first chapter of Genesisthe shape of humanity was to be found through all creation. "Each and all things that exist in the created universe," Swedenborg writes in his Divine Love and Wisdom, "have such correspondence with each and all things of man that it may be said that man is also a kind of universe."24 For Emerson, this was the ray of relation that shot forth from man and created an "occult" connection between "man and vegetable" (or scorpion, as he pondered in the Jardin d'Plantes), that caused nature to be "so pervaded with human life, that there is something of humanity in all, and in every particular" (Essays 41).
In addition to piercing all the forms of nature, the ray of relation shot up to the very shape of God. Emerson was struck by an idea in Divine Love and Wisdom that it is impossible to comprehend an idea of omnipresent Divinity throughout the universe without first understanding God-as-man, in our human shape.25 In this context, correspondence for Swedenborg and Emerson greatly differs from the Puritan symbols of typology. Whereas Edwards saw in the roses and briers didactic "types" of Christ's specific passion, or representations of the mechanical laws of Providence, the nature that Swedenborg beheld always reflects back the human experience. Flowers and flowerbeds correspond to the "truths of information and insight" that a human being acquires. Thus the resplendent gardens which Swedenborg beholds in heaven symbolize the profound wisdom there, where even the smallest blade of grass is capable of translating into a meaning. Swedenborg writes:
[Angels] live in gardens where you can see flower beds and lawns beautifully marked off, surrounded by rows of trees with arcades and promenades. The trees and flowers change from day to day. Looking at all this brings pleasure to their minds generally, and the specific changes make it constantly new. Further, since all this corresponds to divine qualities, and since these people are drawn to their knowledge of correspondences, they are constantly being filled with new insights and thereby having their spiritual rational faculty perfected. They enjoy these pleasures because gardens, flower beds, lawns, and trees correspond to information, insights, and the intelligence that ensues. (no. 489)26
By learning from the text of beauty around them, these angels, like Thoreau, are living out Emerson's declaration that nature could be "a mute gospel . . . a sacred emblem from the first furrow of spring to the last stack which the snow of winter overtakes in the fields" (Essays 29). In Thoreau's Walden and Swedenborg's heaven, close observation of natural phenomena leads to spiritual enlightenment.
Emerson was also enchanted by Swedenborg's languages of the spiritual world where speech perfectly corresponded to the ideas of a speaker. While reading the Apocalypse Revealed between 1835 and 1837, he repeatedly remarked in his journal on a particular memorable relation where "monks who tried to pronounce the words of a doctrine which they did not believe twisted and folded their lips to indignation but could not."27 According to Swedenborg, language in the spiritual world is so unified with the ideas it represents that one cannot speak words that don't accord with one's beliefs. Thus the monks, who were so confirmed in a separate individuality of the Divine trinity, couldn't utter a word about the singularity of God. Emerson's love for truth and sincerity would have found this elimination of hypocrisy and lies appealingly ideal (and perhaps he remarked on the monk scene so frequently because it amused him); he may have also been interested in how this dynamic collapses the distinction between the sign and the signified in language, thereby causing this spiritual speech to function, in a sense, as pure correspondence.
In the "Angel's Language" section of Heaven and Hell (nos. 234245), Swedenborg writes that "the same kind of speech we find in the spiritual world is innate in all of us, but in the deeper part of our intellect." The hint that humans were capable of unified speech, where words and thoughts united as one, was taken a step further by Samson Reed in Growth of the Mind:
There is a language, not of words but of things. When the language shall have been made apparent, that which is human will have answered its end, and being as it were resolved into its original elements, will lose itself in nature. (46)
Using Swedenborg's presentation of a post-Apocalyptic new age as his starting point, Reed melds language and correspondence together in a vision for the future. The speech of humans in this "new church" will be more than just a union of idea and word, the language will become the materials of nature itself. This echoes his earlier injunction for people to cultivate a "memory of things," to root their ideas in the concrete objects of the world rather than trying to grasp mental abstractions. While this is not startling or innovative in itselfLocke himself had postulated in An Essay Concerning Human Understanding that the further language and ideas depart from sensory experience, the more doubtful they become28 Reed avoided Locke's materialism and maintained an Idealist perspective by holding onto Swedenborg's correspondence which guaranteed that the spiritual must flow into the natural, and not the other way around, for genuine truth to make itself apparent through the symbols of the world. Around the same time as Reed's publication of Growth of the Mind, Gustave Oegger had also read various sections on language and correspondence in Swedenborg and came to quite similar conclusions. These become first articulated in his La Vrie Messie of 1829 that theorizes how language evolved away from a union with nature, a pure "golden age" state where correspondences were once one with the things they represented. In a section that intrigued Emerson enough for him to copy it wholesale into his journal (while noting nearby "[See S. Reed's oration on Genius]"), Oegger writes:
Do but take a dictionary of morals, and examine the terms in it. You will see that all of them, from the first to the last, are derived from corporeal and animal life . . . but for all these emblems furnished by nature herself, the moral and metaphysical world would have remained entirely buried in the eternal abyss. (Emerson the Essayist I 300)29
As Emerson mulled over Oegger in his journal during the summer of 1835, the Frenchman's colored lense onto Swedenborgian correspondence suddenly crystallizes into a startling realization about language and the nature of knowing:
2. Aug. Charles wonders that I don't become sick at the stomach over my poor journal yet is obdurate habit callous even to contempt. I must scribble on if it were only to say in confirmation of Oegger's doctrine that I believe I never take a step in thought when engaged in conversation without (having) some material symbol of my proposition. (JMN V 77)
In the subsequent sentences, Emerson describes some of these symbols that root his thought in language. They are remarkable. A mass of grass or weeds in a stream comes to mind when he thinks about instinct and genius, and an old pail filled with potatoes becomes a symbol of the literary value of Aristotle, Plato, and others. Emerson concludes the journal entry with an important supposition that became polished into the published text of Nature: "And I suppose that any man who will watch his intellectual process will find a material image contemporaneous with his every thought & furnishing the garment of the thought."
To furnish the garments of thought, or as William James later puts it, to make the room for a mind: this is Swedenborg's "doctrine of affections clothed," the notion that "the spiritual clothes itself with the natural, as a man clothes himself with a garment," which Emerson read in Intercourse Between the Soul and Body and enthusiastically recommended to Carlyle in letters (who went on to tailor his own ideological clothes in Sartor Resartus).30 From the published text of Nature in 1836, it is not difficult to trace the addition of the "doctrine of affections clothed" to a general stream of Yankee pragmatism which ramifies into the work of James Sanders Peirce. In 1878, forty-two years after Emerson's Nature, in "How to Make Our Ideas Clear," Peirce declares "how impossible it is that we should have an idea in our minds which relates to anything but conceived sensible effects of things" (132).
As Jonathan Edwards would in all likelihood have been shocked to have his work traced to Emerson, one can also imagine Emanuel Swedenborg being surprised to see his spirit-infused "affections clothed" drawn to Peirce. Yet there is certainly the sort of translucent timelessness between the two thinkers that awed Emerson and caused him to compile list upon list of people who werealthough separated by centuriesconnected by the transparency of an eye-ball which glimpsed at the same eternal idea. Some of the strands that wind through Swedenborg's heaven are found within the mathematical depths of Peirce's logic, in particular the threads of use and utility. For both Peirce and Swedenborg, no idea could exist without it being put into pragmatic practice. In a memorable relation from True Christian Religion, another text that Emerson read later in life, an angel tells Swedenborg that
Love and wisdom are nothing without the good of use. They are but ideal entities; nor do they become real until they exist in use. For love, wisdom, and use, are three things which cannot be separated . . . They are precisely like end, cause, and effect; the end is not anything (in itself) unless through the cause it exists in an
effect . . . (I 387)
"The Universe has three children," Emerson wrote in "The Poet," ". . . in every system of thought, whether they be called cause, operation, and effect; or, more poetically, Jove, Pluto, Neptune . . ." (Essays 449). It takes the effect, the doing, to complete this trinity and make an idea real. Correspondence cannot exist without a material base. This is the function of habit, according to Peirce, that builds the "external permanency" which is the necessary foundation for metaphysical belief (120).
Section 3 top
Emerson's foundation for belief was under continual construction. His habit of thought wandered in a quest for truth that never completely coalesced into a permanent system. Or rather, Emerson attempted to found his belief on nature itself: nature, that was organic and ever-changing, yet always obeying inviolable spiritual laws. The writings of Emanuel Swedenborg helped Emerson maintain sight of an eternal spiritual while grasping closely the ephemera of the natural. It was Swedenborg who "of all the men in the recent ages, stands eminently for the translator of nature into thought," whose profundity of wisdom was "to be read in long thousands of years by some stream in Paradise" (JMN VIII 255).
One must be cautious in presenting Emerson's superlatives about Swedenborg. Emerson by no means found Swedenborg to be easy reading. Swedenborg was like a moth drawn to a flame, "crazed and killed" by his ideas; he was "a bear who fattens in the dark & in the cold," who "sees all amiss with this dull prismatic blur of misplaced gaudiness."31 Particularly in the latter half of the 1840s, as Emerson more thoroughly engaged with Swedenborg's lesser-known philosophical and theological works, he found much to criticize. Swedenborg may have revealed "indisputable secrets of moral nature," but he remained "through it all, & after all, a poor little narrow pragmatical Lutheran."32 He was "a stupendous old prig" whose ideas in Conjugial Love were written "in Goody-Two-Shoes taste, the description of gold houses, & Sinbad Sailor fruit treesall tinsel and gingerbread."33
Some of Emerson's disparagement of Swedenborg seems unwarranted, or at least misdirected. Swedenborg's correspondences, although certainly systematic, allow for more flexibility than Representative Men would suggest. The heaven, hell, and world of spirits that Swedenborg depicts from things seen and heard are remarkably subjective. The perception and appearance of things constantly shifts and changes before his scientific gaze, and sometimes even causes surprises. "I saw some English clergy men assembled," he writes,
. . . The bishops spoke, and the rest concurred. And suddenly, to my surprise, they no longer appeared as many people, but as one great figure whose face was like that of a lion, having on his head a turreted miter, on which was a crown. (no. 341, 325)
As Emerson read this and other memorable relations in Apocalypse Revealed, he noted that Swedenborg's world was "protean to his eye," and that this made the Swede "a right poet."34 Yet, the later Representative Men confirms Swedenborg "remained entirely devoid of the whole apparatus of poetic expression"(which also indicates that Emerson was unaware of Swedenborg's poetical prose excursion, the 1744 Worship and Love of God). As far as his critique that Swedenborg's "theological bias thus fatally narrowed his interpretation of nature," and his correspondences fail because they are attached "to the Christian symbol, instead of to the moral sentiment" (668), Emerson overlooks Swedenborg's claim that the most genuine understanding of correspondences lay far outside the Christian domain, in a pre-Judaic sort of ur-text he called the "Ancient Word" which lay somewhere in Asia.35 Before Europe's high period of orientalization Swedenborg had already looked east; indeed, the man who D. T. Suzuki dubbed "the Buddha of the North" is representative of other important paradigm shifts in the nineteenth century. Well before Nietzsche officially sounded the death-knell of Christianity for Europe, Swedenborg had not only declared the Christian church to be spiritually dead and over, but announced that the Apocalypse had already occurred (in 1757, unbeknownst to most of the world!), and prophesied that an imminent new age and universal religion were on their way in. Swedenborg further overturned orthodox Enlightenment rationality by asserting that the most spiritual people of his day, those who were closest to the Divine and to heaven, were certain African tribes who received revelation "orally dictated by angelic spirits" and who lived far outside the influence of Christian Europe.36 This significantly situates Swedenborg (along with his contemporary Jean-Jacques Rousseau) as part of the emergent Romantic discourse on "the noble savage."
Ralph Waldo Emerson, more directly than Swedenborg, "looked east" by immersing himself in the philosophy and sacred literatures of China and India. Why he failed to perceive through Swedenborg's transparency of thought the same glimmerings that drew him to the Bhagavad-Gita or to various Buddhist texts, particularly in regards to the concept of evil which Emerson misreads in Swedenborg as being Manichean, is a large question that deserves the space of another paper at another time. Clarence Hotson infers that Emerson consciously established critical distance simply because he owed so much to Swedenborg; it was a maneuver to further distinguish the originality of his own line of thought. This was also because Emerson "was afraid to seem too much interested in Swedenborg, and be, in the public mind, confounded with the Swedenborgian religious denomination . . ." (672), but here Hotson seems to vastly inflate Emerson's concern for public regard, and he ultimately exaggerates Emerson's reliance on Swedenborg. Kenneth Silver takes a more psychological approach and argues that the sage of Concord saw much of himself reflected in the mind of Swedenborg. Emerson's more vehement commentary on Swedenborg in the journals, according to Silver, as readily apply to himselfit often sounds "as if he was speaking about what he feared most about his own personality" (108). There is certainly some truth to what Silver proposes; Emerson himself knew how people, in addition to things, could be representative, that "other men are lenses through which we read our own minds" (Essays 617).
A more fruitful explanation, one which is in need of further inquiry, may lie behind the inter-relations of Emerson, Swedenborg's texts, and the Boston Swedenborgians. There was much initial friendly rapport between Emerson and Samson Reed and his ilk. Before Emerson came to know the New Church very well, he stipulated in a letter to Carlyle that the New Church, though droll and boring, was "deeply interesting, as a sect which I think must contribute more than all other sects to the new faith which must arise out of all."37 Emerson even remarks how when he visited a friend who was a Swedenborgian minister, the friend felt no need to preach because Emerson's discourse so nearly matched his own.38 And in England, when Nature was first released, many Swedenborgians mistook Emerson's work for a publication by one of their own.39 In the later 1830s this mutual exchange and amity turned sour. Emerson began to grumble about the disappointing dogmatism of the New Church, and when Samson Reed republished his Growth of the Mind in 1838, he included an introduction that derided Transcendentalism as a mere parasite of Swedenborg's ideas.40 While Emerson makes no comment on Reed's analogy (which graphically compares the "Transcendentalist" to an insect which lays carnivorous eggs in the bodies of its brethren), he does write about opinionated arguments he held with Reed and other Swedenborgians. These entries curiously suggest that there were mutual attempts on both parties to "convert" the otherone trying to bring Emerson away from the pantheistic parasite of Transcendentalism and into the New Church fold, the other attempting to break Reed free from "immense arrogancy and subtle bigotry" of the New Church; "I cannot hope to shake, to convert him," Emerson despaired about Reed in 1838, ". . . I should like to get at S.R. very well, but entrenched as he is in another man's mind, it is not easy."41 Considering how instrumental the New Church was for Emerson's approach to Swedenborg, beginning with Reed's "Oration on Genius" and continuing throughout Emerson's life via his subscription to the New Jerusalem Messenger, it would not be surprising if there was an ideological overlap within his mind between the eighteenth century seer and his nineteenth century adherents. Perhaps some of Emerson's criticisms of Swedenborg regarding correspondence and the nature of evil are more accurately directed towards someone like Reed, who had published a highly dogmatic dictionary of correspondence derived from Swedenborg's works, or other Swedenborgians who had propounded, with an intellectual and emotional intensity like that of a Puritan, that their New Church was the sole emissary of spiritual light in a dark "vastated" world of dead Christianity.42
At any rate, Emerson's entanglement with Swedenborg was one of the highest intellectual compliments he could pay. Swedenborg lay near the center of Emerson's perpetual wrestle with ideas of correspondence and language, those metaphysical ligaments, the -ligio in religion, that tie God to man. Hallengren has written that Emerson "seems to have attacked those to whom he owed much" and further reminds us how when we are within Emerson's domain, we should remember that "repulsion is equal to attraction in an electrical field, diversion marks the dynamic of exchange, the idiom of the dialogue" (1994 28). To be repulsed can be the hallmark of a great man of genius. Emerson writes about the great men of history: "They are very attractive, and seem at a distance our own: but we are hindered on all sides from approach. The more we are drawn, the more we are repelled" (Essays 628). Though Representative Men seems to be closing a door on Swedenborg, even making a farewell of sorts to his workhe "is retrospective," after all, and Emerson doesn't think he will be read much longerseventeen years later, Emerson paints his mystic in a poem that conveys an appreciative awe of his lively powers; perhaps even, to continue Silver's conjecture, it carries a tinge of envy:
|. . . In spirit-worlds he trod alone,|
But walked the earth unmarked, unknown.
The near by-stander caught no sound, -
Yet they who listened far aloof
Heard rendings of the skyey roof,
And felt, beneath, the quaking ground;
And his air-sown, unheeded words,
In the next age, are flaming swords. (Essays 1225)
1 For a brief survey of Swedenborg's influence on Spiritualism, see Marguerite Block, The New Church in the New World, 56-57. Also, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The History of Spiritualism devotes its first chapter entirely to Swedenborg.
2 Eugene Taylor "Emerson: The Swedenborgian and Transcendentalist Connection," in Emanuel Swedenborg, 133.
3 See Robert Gladish, Swedenborg, Fourier, and the America of the 1840's.
4 The Crayon, one of the earliest major American art journals, is perhaps the best example. It was originally edited and maintained by the Swedenborgian William Stillman. See Richard Silver, The Spiritual Kingdom in America, 248249.
5 Miller, "From Edwards to Emerson," Errand into the Wilderness, 184203.
6 A History of the Work of Redemption was to be Edwards "great work." In 1757 he ambitiously outlines to provide histories of "all three worlds, heaven, earth and hell." By this point, thousands of miles away in Europe, Emanuel Swedenborg had already set quite similar parameters. A Jonathan Edwards Reader, 32223.
7 Perry Miller was the first to declare Jonathan Edwards as the "spokesman, almost the first, for the deep, the most rooted, the really native tradition." Donald Weber, "Perry Miller and the Recovery of Jonathan Edwards," vi.
8 In the journals of 1836, Emerson dubs Reed his "early oracle" (J IV181). In an unpublished manuscript poem which reveals much about the relationship between the two, Emerson likely versifies this particular occasion where he avidly watched and listened to Reed speak (Essays 1289). Emerson was one of the only persons that day to be interested in Reed's speechit was spoken in a meeching way "& the audience found it very dull & tiresome" (JMN XVI 184).
9 For a meticulous account of Emerson's references to Reed, see Clarence Hotson, "Samson Reed, A Teacher of Emerson."
10 "I have always distinguished Sampson Reed's Oration . . . & all of Shakespeare as being works of genius" (JMN V 232).
11 Shaw, Samson Reed, 48, 88.
12 For a full exploration of Swedenborg in these works of Blake, see Kathleen Raine in Blake and Swedenborg: Opposition is True Friendship.
13 For Swedenborg's impact on funerary art, beginning with Flaxman, see H. W. Janson, "Psyche in Stone," Emanuel Swedenborg: A Continual Vision, p. 116126. For a discussion of Swedenborg's relevance to Goethe's Faust, see Ulrich Gaier, "Könnt' in Magie von meinem Pfad enterfernenSwedenborg im Magischen Diskurs von Goethes Faust," in Emanuel Swedenborg 16881772.
14 JMN V 6670.
15 JMN VI 312; JMN IX 35960. For elaboration on Swedenborg and Schelling, see Friederman Horn, Schelling and Swedenborg: Mysticism and German Idealism.
16 Hallengren, The Code of Concord, 109115.
17 Hallengren 1994, 52.
18 Ibid 43.
19 Emerson the Essayist I 230.
20 JMN IV 288, 342. The "doctrine of affections clothed" could have also appeared in the New Jerusalem Messenger around this time when Emerson remarks upon it.
21 Emerson the Essayist I 230. For a full list of books in Emerson's library, and which of Swedenborg's works were annotated by Emerson's hand, see Walter Harding 262-264.
22 "Whilst thus the poet animates nature with his own thoughts, he differs from the philosopher only herein, that the one proposes Beauty as his main end; the other Truth" (Essays 36).
23 See, for example, the modus operandi at the start of Heaven and Hell : "Now I am being allowed therefore to describe what I have heard and seen, in the hopes of shedding light where there is ignorance, and of dispelling skepticism" (no. 1, 89). The "seen and heard" within the original Latin title of the work also underscores the empirical.
24 Divine Love and Wisdom no. 52.
25 "This thought concerning God is fundamental; for without it what is to be said of the creation of the universe from God Man, and of his providence, omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience, though it should be understood cannot be retained" (Divine Love and Wisdom no. 72). Emerson's interest in this passage is noted with several others under the entry "Studies in Swedenborg" in Notebook Z. JMN VI 314.
26 While Emerson found the garden passage from Heaven and Hell remarkable enough to transcribe into a journal, its details annoyed him. "But it is vicious to say . . ." he writes, "of the fair shrubs & trees which adorn the gardens of angels, that 'these are changed every day,' like a city lady's row of plants. as if he [Swedenborg] was thinking of . . . the prints in [a] city bookseller's shopwindow" (JMN VI 315).
27 JMN IV 343; JMN V 51, 115, 397. The memorable relation is Apocalypse Revealed no. 294.
28 An Essay Concerning Human Understanding Book III Chap. 9, 478.
29 For Emerson's transcription, see JMN V 75-76.
30 Intercourse Between the Soul and the Body no. 11, 335. For Emerson's exposition of this doctrine to Carlyle, see The Correspondence of Carlyle and Emerson 109.
31 JMN IX 300; X 150, 357.
32 JMN IX 339, 684.
33 JMN XI 133.
34 JMN VII 221; see also "The Poet" where Emerson writes that "the metamorphosis continually plays" before Swedenborg (464).
35 "As to this Ancient Word," Swedenborg writes, "which was in Asia before the Israelitish Word, it is opportune here to present this information: It is still there among the people of Great Tartary . . . Seek for it in China, and perhaps you will find it there among the Tartars" (Apocalypse Revealed 11). Both Honore Balzac and August Strindberg were tantalized by Swedenborg's Ancient Word. See "The Secret of Magna Tartaria" in Anders Hallengren, Gallery of Mirrors.
36 For Swedenborg's ideas of Africans, see Heaven and Hell no. 326; Conjugial Love 113; and in particular Continuation of the Spiritual World nos. 73-78. Emerson certainly picked up on Swedenborg's unusual African topos: JMN X 485. Swedenborg's Africans were subjects of Transcendentalist conversations that Bronson Alcott and Margaret Fuller took part of; see Taylor 133 and Silver 101.
37 The Correspondence of Carlyle and Emerson,109.
38 JMN IV 269.
39 This was partially due to the particular Swedenborgian terms that Emerson adopted"influx," "corrrespondence," "ultimates." See Block 147.
40 Growth of the Mind (Boston: Otis Clapp, 1838), vivii.
41 JMN VII 31. For indications of the counter-pressure that Swedenborgians like Reed exerted on Emerson, see JMN IV 318319; JMN V 481; JMN VIII 182183.
42 See Block, in particular "The Intellectual Environment" (130169) and "The Academy Movement" (205232).
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______.Angelic Wisdom Concerning Divine Love and Divine Wisdom / Divine Providence [1763-1764]. Translated by George Dole. West Chester, PA.: Swedenborg Foundation, 2002.
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______. Intercourse between Soul and Body . In Miscellaneous Theological Works, translated by John Whitehead. New York: Swedenborg Foundation, 1970.
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